The PSNI police chief has accused the Provisional IRA of continuing to recruit and target potential victims -- but added that it was not set to return to armed struggle.
In a pre-election speech, PSNI chief Hugh Orde appeared to act after a government report on IRA activity could not be published for legal reasons.
Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin dismissed the comments which he said were “yet another political intervention from the PSNI”.
Orde said: “Currently, I am absolutely clear the Provisional IRA are not going back to an armed struggle.
“That is my current assessment. They have the capability. They have the capacity.
“We know they are still recruiting, they still target, they still carry out the activities that they have always done with the exception of actually going out to kill soldiers, police, civilians, members of the public.”
Mr McLaughlin said the Sinn Féin leadership was attempting to end the political deadlock and that the IRA was debating Mr Adams’s recent appeal [for IRA disarmament and a change to exclusively peaceful political struggle].
“When Hugh Orde took over the reins of the PSNI he told us that he would not mix policing with politics. Unfortunately on a number of occasions he has insisted on making very overt political interventions,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“Given the fact that these latest remarks come in the midst of an election campaign and at a time when the initiative by Gerry Adams offers the prospect of forward movement in the political process, many questions will be raised about the intentions of the PSNI in the time ahead,” he added.
IMC UNABLE TO PUBLISH REPORT
Meanwhile, the body appointed by the Dublin and London government to impose penalties against Sinn Féin has been unable to publish another report before the May 5 election.
The four-member Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) is made up of former civil servants and security chiefs and is viewed by republicans as a tool for official political persecution. In its last report in February, the IMC made controversial and unsubstantiated allegations that Sinn Féin leaders had approved a bank robbery and other crimes. The report was a precursor to the imposition of financial penalties on Sinn Féin, now totalling approximately 1 million dollars.
The IMC has now handed over its fifth report to the British and Irish governments. It had been expected the report would be used to embarrass Sinn Féin ahead of elections next month. However, British officials have accepted that the report cannot legally be published while the London parliament has risen for the election.
On Tuesday, Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey led a party delegation to meet with the IMC in Belfast.
Speaking after the meeting Alex Maskey said the IMC had been established in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It operates outside the Agreement and contrary to natural justice and the European Convention on Human Rights and it can have no role in the political process,” said Mr Maskey.
“We set out our position again to them today that they are not an independent body, are not impartial and that their reports have been used by the British Government to discriminate against our party and in an attempt to interfere with the democratic process.
“Following from this we challenged the members of the Independent Monitoring Commission today to resign from the Commission and to set aside their four reports to date.”